I’M IN Japan right now, trying to convince companies to bring their money to Guam. Perhaps that sounds like a cliché for Guamanians by now, because we’ve been going to Japan for nearly 50 years to bring tourists to Guam. Well, that’s important. The millions of tourists that have come from Japan brought billions of dollars with them. That created tens of thousands of jobs for our people, and a booming industry that is the mainstay of our economy.
The world is changing. Asia is growing. Millions of Asian travelers are finding new vacation destinations. Guam has to be more competitive. Guam has to make the sale to Japanese tourists and convince them to come here.
Is there something wrong in tourism that we had to lead a trade mission to Japan? No. Is there a problem with our relationship with Japan? No. Is tourism in such a poor state that we have to revive it with an aggressive push? No. So, why are we pushing so hard? The answer’s simple. No matter what the state of tourism on Guam, we should never settle or feel it is adequate. We always have to be concerned for the thousands of people who earn a living in the tourism industry, and the thousands more who rely on their family member’s income to live.
We also are looking toward the future. There are a lot of people looking for a job. If we bring more tourists to the island, there would be more jobs for these people. But our purpose in Japan goes beyond tourism.
As a senator since the news of the military buildup, I was repeatedly frustrated by the tunnel focus on the military buildup as the sort of ‘savior’ to our economic woes and the government’s problem with bringing in new revenue. I used to tell people I didn’t see the military buildup as the ‘be all end all of our prosperity.’ It is critical to our development, yes. It anchors the confidence we and prospective investors have in our economy. But what happens after the buildup? Are we relying on the Marines, Air Force and Navy to pull us out of poverty and economic doldrums? Should we place all our eggs into one basket, only to see it whisked away when the buildup ends?
Of course not.
We need to be the masters of our own destiny. We need to do everything we can, as a people, to build our island up and bring prosperity to the next generation. I’m in Japan because Ray and I have a vision for Guam’s economy that goes well beyond the buildup. We want to see more Japanese tourists coming to Guam and spending their money. More than that, we want more Japanese companies from different industries to bring their capital to Guam, set up shop, help small businesses, and provide more opportunities to our workforce. We want to build industries beyond tourism and the military.
The response we’re getting is very promising. For half-a-century, Guam was focused on speaking solely to Japanese tourist investors. We went to large markets in Japan just to bring tourists back. But the world looks to Japan for much more. Until recently, Japan was the second largest economy in the world. That means the Japanese have a lot more to offer our island than tourism. They’re just three hours away from us. We want to tap the other opportunities they present.
A lot of work went into this trade mission. The unsung heroes who paved the way for this successful mission are the rank and file employees of the Guam Economic Development Authority, Guam Visitors Bureau, the A.B. Won Pat International Airport Authority, the Guam Power Authority, Guam Waterworks Authority, and Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority. They did tons of research. They reached out to their networks. They identified possibilities to extend our existing networks.
They didn’t settle for what we have now. Our success in tourism didn’t cut it for them. They wanted more success. They wanted this mission to work so that soon we can see more Japanese investments and, in turn, more job opportunities for you. They truly reached for excellence.
This is really the story of the everyday government of Guam employee. Thousands of them go above their call to make a difference, to help others, to serve. It’s why we created the MagPROAwards. We want to honor them and recognize them
I humbly ask you: If you know anyone in the government (or an agency) who deserves recognition, log on to www.magproawards.com, look at all the categories and criteria and nominate that person or department. We only have until Oct. 5 of this year to receive nominations. Your nomination could lead to well-deserved recognition of a government employee. It will lead to increased morale in a government that is sometimes battered for the sins of the past, and almost always forgotten for the good work it does for the people.
I’ll be back home tomorrow. I have a lot of good news to report. We’ve made a lot of progress thanks to the hard work of our rank and file. At the end of the day, know we are working deliberately and aggressively to give you opportunity. That’s really what this trade mission has been about.